By Andy Dunk
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A year ago the Blackhawks were amidst a playoff run which would eventually end in a championship. The Hawks were led throughout the playoffs last year by goaltender Antti Niemi. Niemi was a force in net, single-handedly winning multiple games for his team. He put the team on his back and brought them home a championship. Shortly after the end of the season the Hawks found themselves in a bind with multiple players deserving of raises and a diminishing NHL salary cap.
Niemi was an unfortunate casualty.
Now Hawks fans must watch as Niemi continues his playoff success…this time as a Shark. As a replacement the Hawks turned first to veteran Marty Turco. While once a top goaltender, the Hawks quickly saw that he would not be the answer in goal. Instead of searching for another veteran, the Hawks looked to their farm system and gave Corey Crawford a go.
Crawford was outstanding this year for the Blackhawks. Many were shocked that he was not a Calder Cup finalist for rookie of the year in the NHL. He was eighth in the NHL with a 2.33 goals against average and led all rookies with 33 wins. In his first ever playoff series Crawford showed poise and determination. He kept the Blackhawks afloat and almost led them on a historic comeback. In game seven in Vancouver he truly kept the Hawks in the game.
With Crawford’s contract up, the Blackhawks did not make the same mistake twice. The Blackhawks resigned Crawford to a three year deal worth about eight million dollars. This was the Blackhawks number one priority coming into the off-season and they made quick work of it.
The Hawks will now focus their attention on resigning Troy Brouwer, Chris Campoli, Michael Frolik, Jake Dowell and Viktor Stalberg, all restricted free agents.